Gathering The Dead And Wounded

May 10, 1873, page 397

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The Louisiana Murders


The 1872 state election results in Louisiana were disputed between the regular Republicans and a coalition of Liberal Republicans and Democrats, with each side inaugurating their own governor and legislature. A federal district judge ruled that the regular Republicans were the victors, so newly-reelected President Ulysses S. Grant sent federal troops to ensure compliance with the judicial decree.

Many whites in Louisiana refused to accept that decision. They established a shadow government and used paramilitary units known as the White League to intimidate and attack blacks and white Republicans.

The worst incident of violence was the Colfax Massacre of April 13, 1873. The fighting left two white men and 70 black men dead, with half of the latter killed after they surrendered. Federal officials arrested and indicted over 100 white men. They were later freed, however, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the basis for their prosecution (part of the 1870 enforcement act) was unconstitutional.


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